It's soon been 2 years since I built the Wooden pack frame. We've since spent over 60 days on various trips and I've learned what works and what does not. I've made lots of changes since then which i want to share with all of you!
The lacing was previously made by thin hemp cord. Both the joints and the netting. Over time the cord stretched slightly and became a bit loose. I've since changed all the lacing to rawhide which shrinks and gets tighter when it dries. I got the rawhide from dog chews. It's a simple process to soak them and cut along the edges to create a lace. For the joints I cut it to 4mm thick laces and stretched them as much as possible before tying. For the netting I cut 5-6mm wide lace which I only stretched a little. I did a so called babiche in the same pattern as the Huron canoe seats as described by Mike Elliott.
|Close-up of lacing|
Since rawhide gets wet and soggy from water it needs some treatment. The tradition one is to use varnish, Mike suggests spar varnish. Since I prefer not to use any chemicals I did a mix of equal parts boiled linseed oil and beeswax which I applied by hand. I've yet to try it in rain but it seems promising.
The gear tying
My old system of tying gear to the pack got a bit tedious after a while since I had long cords hanging and every time I removed something something else fell off. Also, the rope rings I'd made started falling apart after a while.
So I replaced the rope rings with metal rings, which are laced in place with rawhide. The ropes going through the rings are replaced with elastic cord. The only synthetic part of the frame. The cord is tied in each ring so it won't affect other parts when unfastened.
The gear tying buckles (the crooked ones with holes) have worked amazingly well. One broke but I replaced it and it's been there since then.
The waist strap buckle was slipping, not staying tight, so I replaced it with a metal buckle. Not as pretty but more practical.
The shoulder strap buckles were slipping too so I replaced them with double O-rings (I prefer O-rings over D-rings because the D-rings tend to turn 90 degrees so they look messy and doesn't work.
I also made new shoulder straps to be able to place them further from each other, before they joined in the middle which made the pack sway when moving. These new ones also feature load lifter straps which use wooden buckles (now that I knew the secrets I could make them without slippage). The shoulder straps are made from vertically folded pieces of leather, with the fold in towards the neck. This is soft to the skin and very strong.
|The new metal waist buckle, bought online|
|Shoulder strap O-rings|
If I made another frame
There's really not much I'd like to change on this frame. But if I did make another one I'd avoid having a cross piece right behind the head. A fall or sudden swing backwards with the head could result in some damage. I think tying a thick rope or rawhide back and forth a few times should suffice.
I think this is the beauty with experimenting and making your own things. You find what works and what does not and little by little the piece of gear turns into an optimal tool, all the time changing to fit your needs. This is a process most gear on the conventional market does not go through. That gear is designed indoors, maybe tested a few times and adjusted. But it needs to get out to the consumer as soon as possible, setting a stop to the evolutionary process. And when something breaks you don't have the tools, materials or motivation to fix it.
Start using a pack frame
Whether it's bought, quickly tied together from branches or carefully made from select materials a pack frame is an amazing asset almost forgotten. And I don't mean a backpack frame. I mean a frame where the gear is tied directly to it. Either in smaller bags or wrapped up in a blanket. I've numerous times just unstrapped everything from the frame then taken it to gather firewood, to carry a big log, to bike with huge loads or transport anything that won't fit or is too dirty to put in a backpack.
On last summers 6 week canoe trip we had a very big and heavy baker tent (with built in floor and mosquito netting). We did all transportation of that on the pack frame. Including the first 7 days when we portaged over the mountains to get to the source of the stream. It made our lives much easier!
And some more pics
|Shoulder straps fastened using Chicago screws. And one of the gear hooks in the middle.|
|I've reinforced the waist belt holder with leather to avoid tearing.|
|To keep the lower part of the shoulder straps in place.|